Rain Barrel Rewards

We’ve had some mighty storms in the DC area recently. Trees down, flooding, sewer overflows, power outages and the like.

In developed areas, when it rains we usually lose most of our water as it is directed to storm drains and sent directly to our streams and rivers, causing unnaturally high flows and resulting damage. Keeping water on-site and using it for gardening is a better solution, and one that protects clean water for swimming, while reducing demand for highly treated drinking water.

One way to keep some of this water is by using a rain barrel to capture the rain and then use it for outdoor water use. I was lucky to attend a rain barrel workshop sponsored by the Anacostia Watershed Society and Aquabarrel where I learned how to site and install my rain barrel. I’ve heard lots of stories of people who get rain barrels and then leave them sitting in their garage for a long time – either because they’re too hard to install, too heavy, too ugly or too something else. I was determined to set mine up right away – in other words, I was determined that this was my husband Mike’s job for Saturday afternoon!

We soon after had our first good, hard rain. What was amazing was how quickly the 55 gallon barrel filled up. 700 hundred gallons is the amount of water that will run off an average sized roof when there is one inch of rainfall over 24 hours. But we had so much rain here, that Kamweti Mutu with the Anacostia Watershed Society estimated that 7,000 gallons of rain would have drained off a 2,500 square foot roof over this wet period.

Okay – so my rain barrel can’t do it alone – we also need to use the many other green infrastructure practices to effectively reduce polluted stormwater runoff and outdoor potable water use. But it is a good start – some places like Albuquerque are now requiring new homes to use rain barrels for outdoor irrigation to reduce demand for more treated water. And for me, I now have a steady source of water for my garden, and I think I’ll get a couple more rain barrels for the rest of my runoff.